She’s played royalty so often, sometimes we forget Dame Helen Mirren isn’t a real queen.
She may as well be – and it seems the beloved actress had the same idea at the premiere of her new regally inspired mini-series Catherine the Great, where she was carried along the red carpet in a golden sedan chair by four burly blokes.
With millions of dollars’ worth of Chopard diamonds dripping from her ears and neck and her enviable figure clad in couture, Helen would have put real royalty to shame – not that she’d ever behave like a royal.
She’s the woman Sir Michael Parkinson once infamously labelled a “sex queen “ who projected a “sluttish eroticism” – but who decades later won an Oscar for portraying no less than The Queen.
“I made some bold and quite brave moves at various times in my life, maybe slightly professionally suicidal moves,” says Helen (74). “But I don’t regret any of it. I always try to make the tapestry of my work as broad as possible. To me, the most successful way to conduct my professional life is to constantly search out new and different things to do.
“I want roles that reflect women well as a sex, that doesn’t demean or undercut them or make them feel sh**ty when they watch it. In essence, I’m still hoping to reflect women on screen and in the theatre the way I hoped to do in that interview with Michael Parkinson all those years ago.”
More recently, she’s made headlines for wishing she’d learnt the words “f*** off” at a much younger age, speaking her mind on political and social issues, and successfully lobbying the makers of The Fast and the Furious to cast her in the high-octane film franchise.
She also broke the internet long before any Hollywood socialite could dream of such a thing when photos of her then 63-year-old figure in a red bikini caused a global sensation – which she’s still unhappy about.
“The fact that I look good at the age I am is bloody irrelevant. We have to let go of this crap. It creates even more pressure on women, and I certainly don’t want to be a part of that. I’m not beautiful – I clean up nice.”
She went on to create another sensation this year when she turned up to the Cannes Film Festival with pink hair.
Unorthodox? Sure. But in her new project, in which she portrays Russia’s greatest empress, Helen digs into this side of herself – and into her Russian roots – to bring to life one of history’s more colourful characters, a woman with whom Helen found more in common than she’d expected.
“She was sexy, and had a healthy appetite,” Helen says. “I’m a bit like Catherine, to my mind. Because I’m the child of my own culture, there’s always that sense of, ‘Oh, I’m not quite sure that’s really the way to behave.’ Except, of course, in one’s own love life. I felt it was my right to have affairs, and be in love with people, and to live with them.
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